Vietnamese Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs (Suon Xao Chua Ngot)

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Vietnamese Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs (Suon xao chua ngot) features tender pork ribs coated with a mouthwatering savory sweet and sour sauce. Serve it with rice for a very satisfying meal.

a plate of Vietnamese sweet and sour pork ribs.

What is Vietnamese Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs

Sweet and Sour Ribs is in meal rotation of many families in Northern Vietnam. The savory sweet and sour sauce makes it so delicious and addictive that no matter how much you have eaten, you still want more. The Vietnamese name is “sườn xào chua ngọt” (or just “sườn chua ngọt” for short). From my observation, this dish isn’t popular in the South.

So each Vietnamese family has their own version of sweet and sour pork ribs. My mom and my uncle and some other families I know often use tomatoes and vinegar as the main ingredients for the sauce.

I used to think that was the only way to cook this dish until I was invited to dinner at my friend’s house in Ninh Binh. Her mom used tamarind to make the sweet and sour sauce and it was absolutely delicious. And in case you don’t know, Ninh Binh is the beautiful province where they recently filmed the Kong: Skull Island movie. Anyway, today I will share with you the version my mom and uncle make, which is also what I’m most familiar with.

Main Ingredients

a plate of Vietnamese pork ribs in sweet and sour sauce, served with rice on the side.

Here are the main ingredients for Vietnamese sweet and sour ribs: pork ribs, tomatoes, rice vinegar (or apple cider vinegar), five spice powder, fish sauce, honey (or sugar) and aromatics.

If you can find meaty ribs with small bones, that is perfect. Ask your butcher to cut them into 2-inch long sections. In Vietnam, a lot of home cooks can cut the ribs themselves using a meat cleaver. I use pork spare ribs since they are easy to find at my local farmers market as well as at regular US grocery stores.

Families in Vietnam usually use rice vinegar, but I have made this dish with apple cider vinegar too. Depending on the brands, you may adjust the amount slightly. Most people use sugar as sweetener for the sauce, but I prefer honey which results in a more glistening sauce.

Two Cooking Methods

This recipe is very easy and simple. First, we sear the ribs until lightly brown. This step helps improve the texture as well as flavors of the ribs. Then we simmer the ribs in the sauce until they are tender and taste delicious.

In the traditional method to cook this dish, the last step is done on the stovetop. For me, I like to let the ribs simmer in the oven. This way, it doesn’t heat up the kitchen or make the house smell. You can do it either way and the dish will be equally tasty.

The amount of vinegar, honey and fish sauce below is entirely customizable to your liking. During the last 5-10 minutes of cooking, you can taste the sauce and the ribs and adjust seasonings to achieve your preferred balance of saltiness, sweetness and sourness.

a plate of tender Vietnamese sweet and sour pork ribs.

Vietnamese Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs (Suon Xao Chua Ngot)

Vietnamese sweet and sour pork ribs (suon xao chua ngot) features tender pork ribs coated with a mouthwatering savory sweet and sour sauce. Serve it with rice for an easy and filling dinner.
Author: Sophie
5 from 3 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 50 minutes
Total: 1 hour
Servings: 4 people

Ingredients
 

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2.5 lbs meaty pork ribs, cut into 2-inch long sections
  • cooking oil
  • 3 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 4 small tomatoes, sliced into thin wedges (about 10-12 oz)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons five-spice powder
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon honey (to taste)
  • 1/2 – 2/3 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • black pepper

Instructions
 

  • If choosing to finish cooking in the oven, preheat your oven to 375°F (190℃). If you prefer to use the stove top from start to finish, no need to preheat the oven. Gather and prep all ingredients.
  • Place an ovenproof sauté pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add some cooking oil once the pan is hot. Toss pork ribs with salt, then add them in single layer and sear until lightly browned. You may need to work in batches. Set aside.
    pork ribs being seared in a cast iron skillet.
  • If there is a lot of oil in the pan, pour it out leaving just enough to lightly coat the bottom. Lower the heat to medium and then add shallot, garlic and sauté briefly until fragrant. Add tomatoes and sauté for 1-2 minutes or until tomatoes start releasing juice.
    tomatoes sliced being sautéed with aromatics in the pan.
  • Add seared pork ribs to the pan and give everything a stir. Sprinkle five spice powder and toss with the ribs.
  • Add vinegar, honey, water, fish sauce, oyster sauce and some black pepper. Increase heat to medium high, stir to combine everything and bring to a boil. Adjust the amount of water so that the liquid should be almost enough to cover the ribs.
  • If using the oven, put the pan in the oven and cook for 30-40 minutes, or until ribs are tender and coated with the thickened sauce. Give it a stir every 15 minutes, and before finishing cooking 5-10 minutes, taste the ribs and the sauce and adjust seasonings to your liking.
  • Instead of putting the pan in the oven, you can simmer it on the stovetop until ribs are tender and coated with the thickened sauce. Give it a stir every 15 minutes, and before finishing cooking 5-10 minutes, taste the ribs and the sauce and adjust seasonings to your liking.
  • Sprinkle more black pepper on top and serve hot with rice. You can garnish it with some chopped scallions, cilantro and/or toasted sesame seeds if desired.

Nutrition

Calories: 893kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 46g | Fat: 67g | Saturated Fat: 21g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 11g | Monounsaturated Fat: 24g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 227mg | Sodium: 1711mg | Potassium: 960mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 20g | Vitamin A: 526IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 85mg | Iron: 4mg
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Keyword: sweet and sour pork
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Note: the post was originally posted on June 27th, 2018. It has been updated with new photos and instructions have been slightly revised in April, 2024.

Old photos

Vietnamese Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs (Suon Xao Chua Ngot) is a popular dish in Northern Vietnam. It features tender ribs coated with a delicious sweet and sour sauce.
Vietnamese Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs (Suon xao chua ngot) features tender pork ribs coated with a mouthwatering savory sweet and sour sauce. Serve it with rice for a very satisfying meal.
Vietnamese Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs (Suon Xao Chua Ngot) is a super yummy dish with tender ribs and mouthwatering sauce. Serve as a main dish with rice.

⭐️ I’d love to hear what you think about the dish, so please feel free to leave a comment and a rating if you have tried it. New recipes are added every week so let’s connect on FacebookYoutubePinterest and Instagram for the latest updates. You can find my collection of Vietnamese recipes here.

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6 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This recipe is absolutely incredible! I added two fresh hot chili peppers for a little kick. Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Jt,
      Thank you so much for letting me know! I’m glad that it turned out great for you.

    1. Hi Ann,

      Thank you for your comment! I will work on a version that uses tamarind. What kind of tamarind products can you find where you are, fresh tamarind or tamarind paste?

      Sophie

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